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Monday, March 17, 2008

Weird, sort of creepy - and just damned cool

Meet Boston Dynamic's BigDog - a whole lot cooler and more advanced than that stupid Japanese walking toaster, what an asimo:



According to the the website, BigDog runs on a two-stroke gasoline engine which powers its hydraulic system, it has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos, the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. So far, BigDog has trotted at 3.3 mph, climbed a 35 degree slope and carried a 120 lb load.

It needs a muffler, or a quieter power plant - but can you see this thing trotting along with a squad of soldiers? Or even carrying your camping gear on an overnight hike? How about a train of these things carrying tourists on their backs down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back?

No jetpacks yet - still, it's starting to feel a lot like the 21st Century.

11 comments:

  1. That is amazing. I agree the gas engine is a little noisy (and makes it sound like a giant bug trying to catch and eat you).

    Still, that's really great.

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  2. But they KICKED it! How mean is THAT?!

    It actually kinda weirds me out. The motion is almost, but not quite biological. And it's the not quite that jars.

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  3. Could DARPA be any cooler?

    But yeah...freaky.

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  4. But they KICKED it! How mean is THAT?!

    Well, true, and I'm sure that when the machines take over, they will review this video with outrage (And rightly so, and I, for one, welcome our new machine overlords and etcetera etcetera and so on). However, did you see how it reacted when they kicked it, almost deer like. I've never seen a machine respond that way. Absolutely amazing. I wonder what kind of processing power the software package takes.

    I can think of a thousand uses for such a machine and I wonder how much it could be scaled up - and down - and how well the motive platform could be integrated with advanced sensing, communications, networking (think herd behavior), automated tools and manipulation systems.

    Just off hand I visualize a semi autonomous rough terrain transport (including passenger capability) but with all the capability of advanced technology - think a cross between a horse and a Mars rover.

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  5. It reminds me of one of the freaky Mummneshanz puppets.

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  6. That's it. I knew it reminded me of something semi-mechanical.

    Thanks, Nathan. Now I can go back to writing without that damned nagging itch in the back of my brain.

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  7. Good, go get me a cup of coffee.

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  8. Jim, I remember seeing a lot of Discover Channel-ish pieces about the MIT robotics lab, where the Boston Dynamics people come from. I loved the one-legged hopper that could even do flips!

    And your herd behavior is being looked at with swarms of very simple insect-like robots.

    This stuff is way cool!

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  9. It's movements sort of look like two creepily awkward people facing each other, bent over, and carrying some sort of thingamajig. It weirds me out, too.

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  10. Tom, the simple insect-like robots are called BEAM robotics, pioneered by Dr. Mark Tilden (the guy that came up with the RoboSapien toys). He and his BEAM insects were featured on the Discovery Channel production Robots Rising. Very life-like adaptive behavior without complex electronics or advanced processors. I'd love see BEAM mated to advanced motive systems like BigDog - in fact, I loved the idea so much I included a machine (called a Tilden Engine) in the SciFi novel I'm currently writing. It does some of the things I was speculating about in the post and previous comments.

    Yeah, don't say it - I'm a geek. Sue me - that's a joke, Eric The Lawyer, don't sue me really :)

    NeuronDoc, to me it looked like the back ends of two dogs, sewed together facing each other. Animal like movement, but strangely, weirdly not. But I think the idea here is that the machine is fully reversible - which, other than Dr. Doolittle's PushmePullyou, large ambulatory animals aren't. I don't think our brains are wired for this type of movement.

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